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IELTS essay introductions – identifying the task

This lesson looks at one of the keys to writing a good introduction to an essay – identifying the task in the question. As you work through the lesson you will find 4 separate sample introductions illustrating different skills.

All of the introductions are slightly different. In my view, there is no one way to write an introduction and the best advice is to practise writing different types of introduction so that you can write different types of essays.

Learn different ways to write IELTS essay introductions but make sure you identify the task

 

IELTS essay introductions

Why you need to identify the task in your introduction

There are 2 major reasons why you need to identify the task in your introduction. If you don’t do this, you are very likely to make one of these mistakes:

  1. not answer the question (very bad for Task Response)
  2. write an introduction that is not coherent with the rest of the essay ( bad for essay coherence)

The first step: understanding what the task is

The task is the bit of the question that tells you how to write the essay. There are different types of tasks in IELTS essays. I find the best approach is not to try and divide them into Argument or Discussion questions. That can be confusing. Rather it is often simpler just to read the question, decide what it is asking you to do, then do it without worrying too much what type of essay you are writing. To do this of course, you need to understand the task words.

Read the question. Answer the question.Relax about whether it is an argument or discussion essay

Typical task words

Here is a selection of some of the most common tasks. The key is to see that they are in fact rather simple. The people who make the exams are not trying to trap you. All you need to do is focus on the exact working of the question. The most important words are often the little words – words like “and” “both” and “more”

Discuss both points of view and give your own opinion. = The task is to discuss both points of view and give your own opinion

What are the disadvantages and advantages of this? = The task is to discuss both the advantages and disadvantages

Are there more advantages or disadvantages to this? = The task is to make a decision about whether there are more advantages or disadvantages.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this. = The task is to say how much you agree or disagree

What can governments do to solve this problem? = The task is to make a suggestion of your own

Skill 1 – make sure you understand the task

This comes first. Many, many essays go wrong because the task is misunderstood. The big danger here is that you get a question that looks very similar to a question you have already answered or an essay that you think you must answer as a model Argument or Discussion essay. In both cases you are likely to try and answer a different question to the one in front of you. A major crime.

 

Spend plenty of time reading the question. Make sure you understand what words like “this” refer to.

Read the example introduction and notes

Several languages die every year and English is becoming used more and more as a world language. Many people feel this is a positive trend and that a world with fewer languages promotes harmony and understanding between people. Analyze both sides of this argument and provide your opinion.

There are both negative and positives aspects to the growth of English as a world language. On one level it helps promote co-operation and understanding, but I believe that this is outweighed by the negative impact it has on minority languages that are rapidly dying.

 Notes

This is a relatively complex task to understand. You need to understand what the two sides of the argument are. One is positive – English as a global language helps harmony. One is negative – English is killing off other languages.

This introduction identifies the task by naming both sides of the argument: On one level it helps promote co-operation and understanding (the pro) and the negative impact it has on minority languages that are rapidly dying (the con). It also shows that the essay is going to give the writer’s opinion about this issue: I believe that

Skill 2 – rephrase the question in your own words

One thing you should attempt to do is try and rephrase the question in your own words when you are identifying the task. I should emphasise that this does not mean that you have to change all the words from the question.

Read the question, make notes and then write your intro without looking back at the question itself. That way you are very unlikely to repeat the question word for word, but only borrow odd words and phrases..

Read the example introduction and notes

Many students choose to work part time during university studies. Do you think its a good or a bad idea? 

Nowadays, it is quite common for students to combine their studies with paid employment. While there are arguments that can be made against this practice, my belief is that it is a positive development.

Notes

This is a brief intro – perhaps more appropriate for a 5 paragraph essay. A short introduction leaves you more words for the content paragraphs. You should practise this type of intro.

The task is to give your opinion about whether students should have jobs. The introduction makes it clear that the essay is going to be about this: my belief is that it is a positive development

The introduction also  suggests that the essay is going to discuss both sides of the question. A different introduction could lead into an essay arguing only one side of the case.

Skill 3 – make sure you answer the whole task

One vital skill you need to practise is ensuring you focus on the whole task in the introduction. This is particularly important in double question types. If you fail to address the whole question in the introduction, you may not address the whole task in the essay (big deduction for Task Response) and/or the essay will lack coherence (the intro does not relate to the whole essay).

If there is a double task, it may make sense to use one sentence for each task in your introduction.

Read the example introduction and notes

In the twenty-first century, mobile phones and the internet play an important role in our lives. How can this technology be useful to the elderly? What are the suggestions that you can give to encourage the elderly to use this technology.

While the younger generation rely on the internet and mobile phones in their everyday lives, many older people are unable or unwilling to use this technology. My belief is that free access to these technologies for the elderly would improve their quality of life in a variety of ways. To achieve this, however, governments might also need to provide education on how to use it.

Notes

This is a slightly more complex introduction. It is much harder to write quick intros to double questions and you should also practise this type of intro.

The task is both to explain how technology can help the elderly and suggest how they can be encouraged to use it. In my intro I identify both of these:  free access to these technologies for the elderly would improve their quality of life in a variety of ways and governments might also need to provide education on how to use it

 

Skill 4 – explain how you are going to address the task

This is something that you would almost certainly do in an academic essay, but you may or may not do in an IELTS exam essay. The standard language you use here is In this essay I will discuss etc. 

Definitely practise this skill when preparing for the exam – even if you do not do it this way in the exam. It’s a good skill to practise because including the In this essay I will language helps you focus on how the introduction explains what comes next in the essay – coherence in another words.

Read the example introduction and notes

Nowadays jobs become more stressful and workers stay longer at work. What are the reasons for this? What can employers do to help employees?

In many professions, not only is the working day now longer than ever before, jobs themselves have become more demanding. In this essay, I discuss some of the economic and social reasons for this and suggest some ways employers can address the issue.

Notes

This is a really tricky question: a double double question. There are two things to discuss: stressful jobs and long hours. You also need to look at why this happens now and what employers can do to help. You need to get all this information into the introduction if you are to identify the task properly.

I identify the task by using In this essay, I discuss and suggest. It is a useful approach for more complex questions. If you try and include more detail in your introduction it can get difficult to write.

What you should read next

Find all my key IELTS essay lessons in

my IELTS essay writing guide

There are different ways to write introductions. In this lesson I talk you through some of the basics and also show you links to what other teachers say.

IELTS essay introductions – the basics

To write a good introduction you first need to understand the question. These lessons might help with that

How to address the topic in IELTS essays

Reading and understanding IELTS essay questions

   

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16 Responses to IELTS essay introductions – identifying the task

  1. Luz January 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Dear Dominic, thank you very much for your help. I have a question, Is it wrong if I don’t write my opinion in the intruction part and leave it until the conclusion?

    • Dominic Cole January 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      Great question.

      In fact, many of my early essays followed pretty much that model – keeping the opinion/answer part to the conclusion. For me it can be quite possible to do it that way – depending slightly on the question. There is almost always more than one way to approach an essay. Increasingly, I believe that it can be a mistake to follow too many rules when you are writing an essay and that it can make life harder not easier if you learn specific essay patterns – such as argument and opinion essays. Simpler to read the question and answer it intelligently. The people who make the exam want to see if you can write an essay answering a specific question – they do not want you to write to a specific argument/opinion essay structure.

      That said, most of my more recent essays put the “answer” in the introduction. It’s a little safer that way and it’s a good guideline to consider. The examiner can see the structure of the essay more clearly. I understand that one thing they are trained to look for is a consistent position throughout the essay – the clearest way to show them that you are doing that is by putting the opinion part up front.

      My next introduction lesson will be on just this topic. I hope to have it posted either later this week or early next week. I shall try and give a few different examples.

  2. Jiss January 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    great…….amazing…

  3. Valentas January 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    Well, Dominic, firstly you are life saver and secondly you read my mind because I thought about how to understand question properly yesterday. Well done! I practice writing every day and now i will always come to your site to consult with your wisdom. Thanks again. 🙂

  4. somi January 10, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    hi sir

    well todays lesson on introduction-identifying the task has cleared my confusion of different types of essays just a day left for me hope i can do well with this time
    really appreciate u r work
    thanks again.

  5. m3dan January 11, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    i think everybody has to study more and more vocabulary to pass the exam

  6. Radmila January 11, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    Thank you very much! You have clarified many important nuances of introduction, which I had not paid attention to before.

  7. Dinaz January 11, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    The very first example you gave about ” English taking over the world -where languages are concerned” – there is only a positive view in the question itself – and then it says discuss both sides of the argument – but there is no negative opinion mentioned in the question at all. I feel that question is incomplete or am i mistaken and reading it all wrong.

  8. Dinaz January 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    On re reading the question – I understand that the very first statement about other languages and dialects dying out – is the negative side to it !

  9. Dinaz January 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    The twenty first century is known as the era of technology, especially since the advent of the cell phone and the internet that have played an important role in communication. The elderly can use this technology to communicate easily and swiftly and for security reasons. The elderly should be educated on how these diverse technology work and efforts should be made to try and make technology as user – friendly as possible for them.

    I tried my hand at my own introduction at this topic – without looking at yours—–

  10. Dinaz January 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    The workplace has become increasingly stressful in the modern world. Employees work increasingly longer hours and suffer often from work related anxiety. There are several factors responsible for this; however, employees can help to decrease this problem to a large extent. This essay will discuss both the reasons for anxiety and long hours of work and what measures the employers can take to ensure that this is minimized.

    Is the last sentence – of the essay —too non academic ?- we had discussed academic vocabulary.

  11. Dinaz January 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    In my opinion, the harmony promoted by English spreading in the world as a global language; outweighs the negative arguments.

    Here is the use of the semicolon -correct ??—-I am very confused with the use of the semi colon !!

  12. Xyz October 9, 2016 at 3:48 am #

    Hlo sir! I want to know that if first line wrong in task 1 but rest is correct then how many band deducted eg. In question paper bar graph is vertical but I wrote horizontal bar graph by mistake….so still is It possible to get above 6bands?

    • Dominic Cole October 9, 2016 at 7:19 am #

      No it’ll make very little difference to your score. Don’t worry

  13. saddam October 11, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    One

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